5 Ways Investing in Summer Learning can Help your Child’s Mental Health

By Laura MacNiven

Posted in Featured, Local, Parent Education Resources, Special Ed. Tutoring, Tips & Advice

5 Ways Investing in Summer Learning can Help your Child’s Mental Health

May is dedicated to Mental Health Awareness Month in Canada, a reminder of the importance for open discussion and understanding. This is especially true for children and adolescents, who often face unique challenges. Interestingly, spring is also a time when school year services for students, such as in-person and online tutoring, executive functioning coaching, and therapy, may start to drop off with nicer weather and outdoor activities. However, many experts agree that continuing these professional supports (even on a reduced or revamped schedule) can lead to greater mental wellness and strength in the fall. So, how do we prioritize mental health for our students and ensure they have the resources to succeed all year round? In this guest blog, Laura MacNiven, co-founder and coach at Springboard Clinic, tackles this very topic with real case studies and strategies to support mental health needs. Read on!

        Guest Blog by Springboard Clinic’s Laura MacNiven

        With warmer weather approaching, students in your home may be feeling the call to step away from commitments like coaching or online and in-person tutoring for the summer. As a parent, I get it – it's been a long year after all and we all deserve a break!

        Yet, as we approach the end of the academic year, it’s essential to recognize that a break from school doesn’t mean a break from growth. In fact, the spring and summer months offer a unique opportunity to invest in and reflect on both learning and mental well-being away from the stressors of your child’s daily routine.

        Here are some examples of how summer coaching or learning supports can be a transformative experience:

        Post-Secondary Success: Student Assessed with ADHD Thrives with Summer Support

        Amy was in her second- year at university when she was assessed and supported for ADHD. During the school year, she worked with her coach on designing ways to stay accountable to deadlines and finding ways to manage overwhelm at times when it all felt like “too much”. When she finished exams in April, she had initially planned to take a break from coaching. However, after speaking with her coach, she decided to do art therapy and family therapy sessions to unpack some of the layers she didn’t have energy for with her academic responsibilities in the picture. By the time September arrived, she was more ready to step back into her school year, more able to access her strengths, and stand on her own two feet.

        High School Success: Grade 10 Student Benefits from Summer Coaching to Start Fall Stronger

        Sam was finishing grade ten when he was faced with the question of whether he wanted to work with his coach over the summer months. At first, he was adamant he wanted to step away and just “not think about ADHD” for the summer. When he discussed it further with his coach, they set up a different style of sessions for the summer. One where he could focus more on discovering and defining his strengths and values, and opening space to play creatively about his dreams. It turns out his summer ADHD coaching helped him better understand his longings, which made it easier for him to choose courses that resonated with his interests and access his full potential in more “true to him” ways.

        Elementary School Transition Success: Grade 8 Student Takes Advantage of Online Sessions

        Lillian was completing grade eight and had a busy summer ahead, including going to overnight camp and travel plans with her family. She was sorry to stop working with her therapist at this time of year, as they had been making progress in helping her address questions and curiosities about herself, the way her brain works, and exploring ways to feel more assured when challenges came up. What she hadn’t realized was that she could do therapy differently over the summer. When she discovered online sessions were a possibility, she was keen to set up virtual sessions periodically earlier in the summer with more frequent in person sessions in August to help her prepare for her transition to high school. Customizing the cadence of sessions helped Lillian keep momentum as she took on this new chapter, while not getting in the way of a busy fun-filled summer.

        3 Questions to Explore When Considering Summer Support for your Child:

        If you’re on the fence about whether to start or stop mental health or learning supports this summer, here are a few questions to explore:

        1) What resilience tools might be beneficial for my child to start the new school year with?

        It would be nice to build resilience without experiencing adversity, but that’s not how it works. Resilience is forged through facing and working through challenges. Taking time to work through scenarios or situations from the past can be a great way to reflect and customize strategies to prepare for the academic year ahead, especially if your child is working toward a transition in their life. Away from the everyday bustle of school, your child may benefit from building new tools before the school year starts.

        Summer mental health and learning supports can provide children with [AB1] [AB2] strategies for managing perfectionism, regulating emotions, or initiating and pushing through tasks that feel boring or cognitively taxing.

        2) What skills would my child benefit from working on while academic demands are lower?

        It can be hard to decipher between willful behaviours vs. where there are opportunities to build new skills. Your child might be saying “they don’t care” about their homework, or blaming others for why things are not getting done. They can get stuck in this language due to lagging skills. Quite often, there are underlying challenges driving these narratives according to Dr. Ross Greene, clinical psychologist and renowned author of “The Explosive Child.” At Springboard, we believe children “will do well when they can.” Maybe your child would benefit from time working through their internal dialogue when it comes to facing challenges with their executive functioning, without a looming essay over their heads. 

        Summer coaching and learning supports can help children build skills through working memory exercises, strategies for managing emotions or exploring time management skills with creative strategies.

        3) What exploratory work would my child be interested in engaging in while they have time to breathe, wonder and play?

        It can be difficult to find time and space to wonder about what “really makes you tick.” Working through facilitated exercises to reflect and explore your individual wants and needs, especially in the context of your own body, can help with self-regulation, decision making, and discovering aligned pathways forward. Your child may benefit from getting creative about their dreams, values, and aspirations as foundational self-knowledge to build upon.

        The ways summer coaching and learning supports can help children in exploratory work include building mind/body awareness, defining individual longings, designing personalized goals, and trying new things.

        Seeking Guidance from Coaches/Therapists/ In-Person & Online Tutors

        Consider the above criteria with your child’s coach/therapist or tutor and have your child explore the question: “If we had time to work over the summer, what might we be able to spend more time on or explore differently?”

        By taking time to pause and consider a facilitated discussion regarding these potential avenues, you can open a space of curiosity more expansively than during the academic year. And remember, it could include changing the type of sessions too, such as art therapy, executive function coaching or family therapy to name a few.

        We often focus on mental health and learning support during the year because of the high demands of homework and academic responsibilities. By considering how we might use down time differently, we may be able to approach deeper therapeutic or skills development goals, with a targeted style of session or approach. Committing to a coaching plan when there is more time for reflection can have meaningful and sustainable impacts long-term.

        …..

        For more advice from Laura, explore her previous guest blog with us: Going Beyond Labels: 4 Ways to “Talk Differently” About ADHD. With final exams on the horizon, we also recommend you check out Springboard’s Top 5 Tips for Focusing on Exams.

        About Laura MacNiven:

        Laura MacNiven, MEd, is an ADHD Coach with over 15 years' experience providing support to neurodiverse children, teens and adults. She is a Co-Founder of Springboard Clinic, a Toronto-based ADHD clinic providing assessment, treatment and coaching/therapy services in person and virtually. She has also co-authored Springboard’s Workbook for Adults with ADHD “May We Have Your Attention Please?” and facilitates online group courses for adults and parents in the fall. For more information, visit www.springboardclinic.com.



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